|Influences||Kate Holden, Cormack McCarthy, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Helen Garner.|
|Bio||Brief Bio: I am a full-time student studying a Bachelor of Social Science at the University of Newcastle, Callaghan Campus. I work casually as a function attendant/waitress. I work hard, navigating a minefield of my own spectacular mistakes, whilst ‘keeping it classy!’ I used to view life from out of a kaleidoscope lens, all the colours bled into each other, mottled patterns shining like glass bottles in the sun. So intense. Dizzying, and nothing makes sense. Today, I see the colours distinguished from each other, clear and consistent like strong bands. Life is not as intense, or as blurry. I am fortunate I am alive with my memory intact and grateful to share this tale.|
He was the Gift Horse with Eyes Larger than his Stomach
It was a sun-dappled afternoon in the quaint suburb of Cook’s Hill, its wide streets buckled under the fortress of roots beneath fig tree foliage and town houses jammed together, jauntily declared their individuality with technicoloured bric-a-brac flourishes pouring from the nearly identical old brick and clapboard buildings. Each weathered, pummelled, bruised like the fig tree’s leaves, rows of cluttered terrace houses were decaying slowly and beautifully. The living was achingly easy.
I was nineteen years old and could only dream of how magical living under these thick branches would be, the neighbourhood in a constant state of celebration, a noisy and boisterous airing of culture and community! A vibrant scene, I mused. I was waiting in the garbage-festooned commodore (number plate, ZXC- or ‘Hey! Sexy!’) passenger seat position. This was typical. Waiting, listening to the radio, writing poems and jingles that rhymed to the tune of childhood cartoon theme songs like ‘Captain Planet’. Something sweet, warm, and toasty with the scent of nostalgia.
The love of my life, my hero, my Danny-Boy was trying to turn something into a great deal more by rolling the dice and hoping he can successfully gamble away what tangible currency he has to his name without a blink to consider the very real (and increasingly more frequent) instances of losing, quite a lot, very quickly, and entirely.
Not my problem, not my money. I often thought I was the child in this relationship. My lack of life skills made me virtually useless, and I relied on Danny to teach me about Adult Life in the Real World. Danny could always make up for any losses with ease by selling marijuana and enough amphetamines to support our daily habit, our constant indulgence. We weren’t junkies. Well, not yet. We were having the good times others wish they could!
I remembered once, when he was shoving fifty-dollar bills into poker machines, three or four machines at once, I said ‘can I have one of those notes? That’s a new pair of jeans!’ I stashed it away but remembered and produced the note triumphantly in the car ride home, pockets and spirits otherwise completely empty.
“Pineapple! Pineapple!” Danny bellowed, embedding this joyous word into our vocabulary of nonsense and references to being high.
This afternoon the wait felt long, and the car interior was a horrid little cell. I wished I had brought along my ID because I looked young and in hindsight was a babe in the woods. The greenest of leaves. I also felt duped, tricked, lied to! Picking up a cheque! I huffed and puffed and wrote an angry poem. Like,
You lied when you said, ‘I’ll be quick!’
You keep me waiting and waiting through lies and tricks!
I’m trapped in this car it makes me sick
Trash all around about a foot thick
All because you won’t tell me the go
I find myself sickened, a prisoner in a cell, riddled with woe.
I particularly liked when Danny was cheerful and buoyant and rapped the words making all that was serious suddenly hilarious! Genius! Danny was in a local band called Schindler’s Pist and music was like oxygen.
I tried to calm myself, begged myself to act like a normal person, I imagined rather soberly, because I could barely remember ‘normal’. I was living like a rock star and no conventions existed in this strange new world Danny and I had created for ourselves, and Jeda, our dog. Normal would calm down.
Danny burst into the driver seat, cheeks flushed, positively bursting!
Danny was about to bet on a horse when a man (reminds me of Mal Meninga) suggested putting his money on his hot tip and, it won! Danny was up three-thousand dollars! There was more. We were going to a huge store Harvey Norman out in Bennet’s Green, to shop for our apartment because this guy- Steve had a special rort there, something to do with dodgy staff or false lay-by information, maybe couriers…? All we had to do was get what we wanted, give Steve the money and wait for the items to be delivered. We’d be getting way more than we were paying for. We felt golden.
Oh, we shopped like kings, and I was even gifted a tiny, round pink CD player and radio, it survived when nothing else did and was useful and perfectly worthless. Sanyo.
All up we chose a large royal blue rug with cream roman-style border, an entertainment shelf/unit, electric fry pan, designer silk bed quilt, a juicer, a heater, plush bath mats, a wooden full-length mirror- for around two-thousand dollars of freshly won notes.
We partied day and night and hoped we hadn’t just been robbed, deceived, a pair of fools…!
The delivery arrived on a grey day to our humble Kelmar apartment block in Merewether. In perfect condition each item moved in exactly as chosen. It was better than Christmas and what a relief! We heartily congratulated ourselves on our clever ingenuity and winning risk-taking behaviour! Crow, crow!
Steve became a quiet, constant visitor. He was a presence that called for the two of the ‘men-folk’ to retreat to the back room and discuss ‘business’ my girl ears weren’t equipped to hear or comprehend. I briefly worried, and was curious but thought, I’m benefitting and Danny’s happy… Roll the dice.
Soon Danny was advertising our good fortune to his extremely wide and diverse clientele, encouraging them to go to Harvey Norman and pick what they want, pay cash and wait for the goods to arrive at their front door! Danny was generous to his friends and thought sharing an opportunity like this was the right thing to do. If he made some money easing these transactions, then so be it- “pimping ain’t easy!” I’d sassily state during episodes of doubt, guilt…? Hard to tell with Danny what emotions he truly felt, and he had a face lined with secrets and silence. Pimping may not be easy but it’s the other job that’s brutal, hard work.
This business went on for some weeks like Santa’s workshop and grew to include cases of Penfold Grange red wine and there were whispers about diamonds and guns! I was high and the ignorance I enjoyed was blissful and cocoon-like. I had a pillowcase filled with a pound of heady marijuana I greedily inhaled beneath my resting head, steady dose of amphetamines flowing and a little room that was my sanctuary. I felt like I was living like Courtney Love my idol and hero and I was in fact, a version of her. I was poised to be consumed by fame I was certain was soon to engulf us in riches! Then we’d die, forever young, cool, and thin.
Danny was twitchy one anonymous day, waiting for Steve, anxious and stressed. There was an urgency, a restless energy that filled our home and rained down the walls a bloody dripping dread.
“I can’t get in touch with Steve…” Danny whispered, as if testing out how the words sound out loud. A startling admission.
“Go to his house! Where does he live?”
Head shaking, no.
“You must have a home phone number? We’ll look it up! What’s his last name?”
We treated ourselves to dignity and toilet paper and had a weighty Yellow and White pages phone directory book, spared from toilet duties, no pages hastily (and desperately!) torn out.
“I don’t know. I never thought I’d have to ask! He was always here…”
I gulped and thought, there’s the first and obvious mistake someone not used to being rorted makes. Uh oh. The ramifications of the myriad consequences of Steve disappearing began to stack up. He had thousands of dollars Danny’s friends and clients entrusted to him and potentially it was gone- stolen! Our heads spun.
I suggested we call in our nearest and dearest to explain the situation and trouble-shoot a solution. I didn’t know but bikie gang members and local ‘heavies’ had their money in the mix as well as our major drug supplier, Will (we’d soon learn how dangerous he could be). I thought, be honest, be forthcoming and we’ll figure out a plan to recuperate some of the losses! We could deal more drugs, larger amounts, business ventures spawned in our heads.
When we were speeding to Sydney to take refuge at his grandfather, Hawk’s house in Maroubra, Danny confided that our lives were threatened, and he felt pretty sure death was hunting us because he had been told explicitly. How people believed we could orchestrate such a scheme to simply rob acquaintances, baffled me. All our good generous efforts were dashed. Our reputation among saints and sinners was stained permanently like a birth mark. We weren’t indulgent and recreational now, we were thieving junkies.
No one could help us or find Steve. He wasn’t at his usual haunts, Harvey Norman knew nothing, no worker on the docks had heard of Steve or his alleged, regular rorts. Could we have imagined the whole thing?! Our surreal life was twisted into an abstract work dark, moody, minimalist and edged with poison, danger.